“A Girl Like You” – The Smithereens

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“A Girl Like You” – The Smithereens
Entry 007
Enters Top Ten: November 11, 1989
Modern Rock Chart Peak: 3
Weeks on Modern Rock Chart: 13

Unlike our two previous entries, this is a song that I have absolutely no problem recalling from its original chart run. Isolated as I was and pretty much limited to whatever managed to make regular rotation on the Appleton, Wisconsin regional Top 40 station, even I wasn’t going to escape this one. Not that I wanted to at the time, mind you, I distinctly remember this being one of those songs that I kept my tape deck primed and ready for (if you were thirteen or older in 1989, you know exactly what this meant – the ‘REC’, ‘PLAY’ and ‘PAUSE’ buttons all depressed and waiting for the DJ to shut up so I could lift my finger off the latter). I’m not sure if I can remember the contents of the particular tape this ended up on, but I do know it was in a run with “18 and Life” and “Dr. Feelgood”, so this must have scanned as “heavy” to my thirteen year-old ears.

Which, as I listen to this again, isn’t as weird as one might initially think. While this is certainly nothing more than power pop of the highest order, it does have a few signifiers that tied it closer to the hair metal of the day than Pat DiNizio would probably want to hear. It begins with that iconic opening riff, one that wouldn’t have sounded terribly out of place on a Cinderella or Ratt album. Even now, I half expect it to lead into the high-pitched wail of a make-up encrusted blonde bad boy with teased bangs and a five-o’clock shadow. Those drums certainly don’t help anything the situation when they kick in to underpin that riff, that gated reverb sound on the snare is a dead giveaway for the late eighties production that nearly killed metal drumming dead for a few years. You can see why this would’ve flowed so well from Skid Row and into Motley Crue. This crisp sheen is mostly down to new producer Ed Stasium, who certainly brought a professional approach that served the band’s radio singles well, but it marked a shift in direction from the more atmospheric work Don Dixon had done on the band’s two previous full-lengths.

But once DiNizio’s vocals kick in, the song’s true lineage is quickly revealed. This is more Big Star than big hair, more Squeeze than Slaughter. It becomes one of the oldest stories in pop music, the narrator lusting over the fantasy girl presumed to be way out of his league. Despite the workaday lyrics and unoriginal theme, DiNizio sells the song with an irresistible melody and a surprising amount of charm for a guy whose pleas grow increasingly desperate and possibly delusional by the song’s end. One can’t discount Maria Vidal’s backing turn either, adding a nice counterpoint to DiNizio’s lead vocals and a little bit of flair to this well-worn pop trope (though one can’t help but wonder how the song would have fared with Madonna on backing vocals, as was the rumored original plan). The song reaches a climax with Jim Babjak’s rousing guitar solo, something else that helped it slot in nicely on radio playlists in an era when “rock music” meant spandex and glam.

Although still probably the band’s most widely remembered song, the dated production and relatively pedestrian lyrics means I’m less excited to hear it again than I was some of the singles from the two proceeding albums. “Blood and Roses”, “Behind the Wall of Sleep” and “Only A Memory” all sound like more engaging tunes to my 2013 ears and more indicative of The Smithereens overall quality. Particularly the latter, which actually outperformed “A Girl Like You” on the Mainstream Rock Chart, hitting number one while “Girl” stalled out at number two. Still, as a trigger for my junior high Top 40 nostalgia, I could’ve done much, much worse.

Rating: 7/10

“Standing There” – The Creatures

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Standing There” – The Creatures
Entry 006
Enters Top Ten: December 9, 1989
Modern Rock Chart Peak: #4
Weeks on Modern Rock Chart: 14

One of the exciting things about the earliest part of this blog’s journey, is that I’m able to discover songs, and sometimes even entire artists, that are completely new to me. Since my days of rabid alternative rock radio listening really didn’t kick in until the latter part of 1992 and into 1993, the earlier years are still able to offer up a few surprises. While recall having come across the name of this band a time or two over the years, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t even have been able to identify it as a Siouxsie and the Banshees offshoot before I started doing the research for this entry. Upon first listen I could immediately recognize Siouxsie’s unique voice, but learning more about this long-running side project ended up being a pleasant surprise.

As it turns out, while Siouxsie and the Banshees were busy recording their fourth album, 1981’s Juju, Siouxsie Sioux herself and drummer Budgie were launching a few new projects of their own. The first, kept secret for some time, was Siouxsie and Budgie’s burgeoning romantic relationship, which saw them go on to marry a decade later before ultimately divorcing in 2007. The other project, of much more direct importance to the subject at hand, was the creation of a new musical outlet for the duo, christened The Creatures. A project that, interestingly enough, ended up outliving the main group by nearly a decade.

The Creatures project started out as a little bit of a lark, a way for Budgie and Siouxsie to pass studio time while waiting around on the other members of the band. Apparently the pair was interested in the way a song sounded when stripped down to solely the vocal and drum tracks, leading them to compose their first song, “But Not Them”. At a later session scheduled solely for this new endeavor, they recorded four more songs to be eventually released along with “But Not Them” on an EP. A full-length album, Feast, was recorded in Hawaii and released in 1983. The second single from that album, a take on Herbie Mann’s jazz classic “Right Now”, hit the Top 15 of the British singles chart and ensured continuing interest in the project. A well received run of albums from their main gig kept the pair busy throughout much of the rest of the eighties, but they managed to reconvene The Creatures in Spain to record a second full-length album, Boomerang, in 1989.

“Standing There”, where our story picks up with the duo, kicks off Boomerang in fine fashion, providing a thrilling display of the Latin-inflected percussion that Budgie would incorporate throughout the album. Over a slinky film noir introduction, Siouxsie calls out to all “creepos” to let them know she has message just for them. But what could have been the start of a seductive torch song takes a very different turn about forty seconds in when Budgie really cuts loose. A quick drum fill and horn peal announces the real action, a samba derived rhythm built upon layers of different percussion instruments, spiced by a lively brass section and what sounds like a marimba. Energetic and insistent, the rhythm sets the scene for a sweaty Spanish nightclub packed with flowing skirts and flashy dancing (a vibe picked up nicely by the song’s video), but Siouxsie clearly has other things on her mind.

Her lyrics take the form of a pointed screed against the self-loathing men in the world that have nothing better to do than project their insecurities on the women they see around them. Played far beyond the standard “men are clueless” trope that has informed many a pop song, Siouxsie’s diatribe cuts to the heart of the evil that men inflict on women, both knowingly and unknowingly. As Budgie’s percussion grows more layered and frenetic, Siouxsie reaches a bitter climax and concludes with the cutting, “So funny to see how pathetic some men can be”. It’s not exactly the type of gender dynamic one usually expects from their three-minute pop songs, but this refreshing turn of the tables allows the song to pack an even more powerful punch. And, rather than undercutting her message, Budgie’s powerful rhythm bed only amplifies and underlines it.

Given the composition and structure of “Standing There”, it seems fairly clear that this song would have stood boldly out among the other college rock offerings of the time. Just comparing this to the other songs we’ve encountered on our journey thus far helps me to understand why some might have viewed the modern rock scene as a true “alternative” with an arms wide-open approach to how the genre might be embodied. I can definitely trace threads through this tune that would be picked up again later in the decade by bands like Portishead and Garbage – particularly the latter’s studio-intensive approach to song construction and provocative takes on gender norms.

As a side-note, it appears that this song is still floating out there in the consciousness of the general public, at least enough to have made an appearance on Season 4 of So You Think You Can Dance, with a jazz dance number choreographed by Mandy Moore of all people. So, there you go.

Rating: 8/10

“Ouija Board, Ouija Board” – Morrissey

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Ouija Board, Ouija Board” – Morrissey
Entry 005
Enters Top Ten: December 30, 1989
Modern Rock Chart Peak: #2
Weeks on Modern Rock Chart: 9

Popular wisdom positions this as the song that nearly killed the momentum of Morrissey’s solo career. And when one considers the firepower of his previous four singles (“Suedehead”, “Everyday is Like Sunday”, “The Last of the Famous International Playboys”, and “Interesting Drug”), it isn’t hard to acknowledge that there was a definable drop in quality when this song hit the airwaves. Couple that with the fact that Moz didn’t hit the U.K. Top Ten again until nearly four years and eleven singles later, and it isn’t difficult to see why such a narrative has grown around this particular song and pushed it to the dark corners of the man’s solo oeuvre. It doesn’t really help matters when the song is most frequently heard via Bona Drag, surrounded by some of the highest peaks of his early solo years and arguably the greatest single disc of music Moz released in the entirety of his post-Smiths career.

Interestingly enough, Bona Drag wasn’t originally intended to be the beloved compilation it became, rather it was intended to serve as the proper full-length follow-up to his debut solo album, Viva Hate. To tide fans over between albums, Morrissey planned to release a series of standalone, holdover singles. Both “International Playboys” and “Interesting Drug” performed well enough on the charts and kept interest in his solo career maintained. But when “Ouija Board” was met with a critical and public reception that was tepid at best, progress slowed to a crawl and it soon became clear that a full-length of brand new material wouldn’t be materializing anytime soon. So, in a wise marketing decision that led to an album still beloved by Moz fans today, the best songs of his early career were compiled along with their b-sides and another new single to be covered later in our journey.

Back to the song at hand, “Ouija Board” is notable for being the first solo Moz single that was not produced by Stephen Street, who had begun his career engineering two of the Smiths landmark studio albums before moving to the producer’s chair for their final album. After an apparent fallout over royalties and Street’s assumed conversations with Moz nemesis and Smiths scribe Johnny Rogan, the two severed their relationship and Morrissey moved forward on his next single with the help of the duo Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. Langer and Winstanley had made a name for themselves throughout the 80s by producing a series of hits for Madness, Hothouse Flowers and Elvis Costello. In addition to the new producers, Morrissey turned to a few new session musicians, including Kevin Armstrong on guitar, Matthew Seligman on bass, and pianist Steve Hopkins. The only player on the song with any ties to Morrissey’s past work was drummer Andrew Paresi, who had played on Viva Hate.

It isn’t hard to want to place the blame for the single’s lackluster success on the unfamiliar ingredients, but even a cursory listen reveals that Morrissey himself is more at fault than any of his new conspirators. The lyrics center find the narrator, even more explicitly spelled out as Morrissey himself than usual, attempting to contact a deceased friend through the use of the titular supernatural device. A typically maudlin and morbid conceit that Moz should have been able to sell, but the halfhearted joke of a payoff destroys what little sense of drama built over the track’s first half. In Morrissey’s ongoing, career long attempt to prove that he is unwanted by everyone and everything, it is revealed that even the Ouija board itself has nothing to say beyond, “Steven, push off”. To borrow from one of his actually successful songs, that joke isn’t funny and the track simply isn’t good.

The track starts off with a plinking piano melody and Morrissey’s plaintive pleas to the Ouija board, briefly joined by what might be meant to be a heavenly host of voices that instead comes across creepy and not quite campy enough (to really appreciate the camp possibilities of the song, check out the video below). After this intro the song settles into a forward shuffle anchored by Paresi’s drums and accentuated by bursts of Armstrong’s distorted guitar. The backing musicians are competent enough, particularly the rhythm section, but some bizarre decisions undercut the budding drama – particularly the almost flamenco-like percussion flourishes. Things threaten to get exciting when “the table is rumbling” and Armstrong enters with a potentially explosive guitar solo that gets cut too short. One can’t help but wonder what Johnny Marr would’ve done with such an opportunity. From there the track is little more than two more minutes of an extended fade-out as Morrissey reveals the payoff and Armstrong takes a few more attempts to liven things up. None of them work.

(As a sidenote, despite the song’s poor success in his native country, “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” became Morrissey’s highest charting solo single to date in America, winding up at number 2 on the modern rock chart.)

Rating: 4/10

“Let Love Rule” – Lenny Kravitz

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Let Love Rule” – Lenny Kravitz
Entry 004
Enters Top Ten: December 2, 1989
Modern Rock Chart Peak: #5
Weeks on Modern Rock Chart: 15

Prior to this song’s original release in the summer of 1989, Lenny Kravitz was mostly known to Americans as “Romeo Blue”, or the guy that eloped with The Cosby Show‘s Lisa Bonet and fathered a child with her. But while the tumultuous relationship with his wife was earning him plenty of time in the nation’s tabloids, Kravitz was busy carving out a music career and finding a record label to release his long-gestating debut album. Despite labels’ complaints that his music was neither “white enough” nor “black enough”, Kravitz forged ahead with his own strand of retro funk-rock that proudly reflected his primary influences – John Lennon, Prince, and Sly Stone, all among the most obvious. Eventually his hard work, not to mention the connections made through his parents (his mother famously played Helen Willis on The Jeffersons and his father was a producer for NBC), paid off, leading to a bidding war between multiple labels and eventually won by Virgin Records. After dropping the Romeo Blue moniker and reclaiming his birth name, Kravitz was ready to move on and “Let Love Rule” was released as the lead single for the debut album of the same name, kicking off a career that is still going strong today.

Compared to the critical reception of his more recent albums, Let Love Rule was met with relatively positive reviews that admired his ability to mix and match influences, praising his funk-rock hybrid that sounded pretty fresh at the time. Critics seemed impressed by his DIY approach, producing the album himself and playing a vast majority of the instruments, earning him endless comparisons to Prince, which must have thrilled the young Kravitz. But even as they acknowledged his chops and arranging talents, it was widely noted that the lyrics themselves left a lot to be desired. Which is a fair call, considering this track in particular is little more than a parade of platitudes like “love is gentle as a rose” and “brothers and sisters join hands”. To be fair though, Kravitz wasn’t exactly disguising his love for all things hippie, so the lyrics weren’t too far off the mark he was probably trying to hit. Lines like “love transcends all space and time” start to make a little more sense once you’ve seen the video, which features a pied piper Kravitz leading a group of smiling children through the forest to dance around a meadow while his band plays. As far as first impressions go, “Let Love Rule” was a fair one. Here is an obviously talented dude with a slavish devotion to his record collection, for better or worse. A guy that hews a little too close to the rock and roll “canon”, but couldn’t care less for prevailing trends.

When looking back on the pop landscape of the summer of 1989 when this song first came out, one is struck by just how out of place it must have seemed at the time. The Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten was filled with dance-pop (Madonna’s “Express Yourself”, Prince’s “Batdance”), sappy ballads (Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting”, Simply Red’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”), and hair metal (Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands On Me”, Great White’s “Once Bitten Twice Shy”). Even as we steer a little closer to the ground trodden by the modern rock artists of the day, Los Angeles’ Paisley Underground scene had already petered out and the psych-influenced Madchester scene hadn’t quite yet made a dent on our side of the Atlantic. It definitely wasn’t trendy to be so obviously beholden to the ideals of the 1960s that summer and seeing Kravitz traipse around in his flowery shirts singing about love and transcendence might have take a little bit of getting used to by your average radio listener.

None of this is to say that “Let Love Rule” doesn’t have its charms. In fact, looking beyond the throwback image and the trite lyrics, it isn’t difficult to see why this climbed the charts and ultimately helped to launch Kravitz’ career. The song dives right in with Kravitz singing over some clean electric guitar backed by a prominent bass line and shuffling drums, colored in with a little subtle organ. It establishes a gentle yet propulsive groove, thanks mostly to that strut-worthy bass line, a groove that Kravitz likes enough to bring back after a quick fake-out – a burst of electric guitar and a shout of the title that makes you think the song is about to shift into high gear, but it cools back down to the opening rhythm just as quick. Another quick build to the second chorus and this time the payoff is earned, particularly since it launches the song into its second half, little more than a four-minute extended coda. Kravitz vamps and even scats a little as the groove keeps rolling, ushering in a saxophone solo by Karl Denson that works its way in much more organically than the more gratuitous sax solos of the 80s, the ones that gave the instrument a corny rep it never really deserved. The single edit of the song unfortunately fades out just after this solo, which is a shame because it cuts off the most interesting ninety seconds of the entire song. As the organ and rhythm section roll on, a guitar tentatively pokes its head in the room several times before finally coming in to engage in a little back and forth soloing with the organist. It’s a fun little moment and one that radio and MTV listeners missed out on. On the other hand, it isn’t hard to see why programmers didn’t want the nearly six minute version taking up valuable air time. Given the quick verse, quick chorus, repeat, and extended coda structure, I find it a bit surprising that this song found enough of a niche to make a dent the way it did. But as Lenny’s continued career goes to show, a little charisma and a lot of chutzpah can go a long way to cover one’s shortcomings.

Rating: 7/10

“House” – The Psychedelic Furs

 

 

 

 

 

 

“House” – The Psychedelic Furs
Entry 003
Enters Top Ten: December 23, 1989
Modern Rock Chart Peak: #1
Weeks on Modern Rock Chart: 13

And we move from one band made famous in the preceding decade to another, although it must be said that The Psychedelic Furs will probably be forever remembered as an iconic 1980’s band to an even greater extent than The B-52’s, if only for that one career-defining soundtrack appearance. But our story meets up with Richard and Tim Butler’s band as they make uneasy steps towards a new decade, one that would find them fizzled out within a few short years. In 1986 the Furs had reached unparalleled levels of renown, mostly centered here in the States, thanks to the re-recording of 1981’s “Pretty In Pink” for the soundtrack to the John Hughes movie with the same title. Hoping to cash in on this new strain of success, the band released 1987’s Midnight To Midnight as a full-on glossy pop move meant to continue their luck and launch them further up the charts. And while in a way successful, the single “Heartbreak Beat” became the band’s only U.S. Top 40 hit (surprisingly enough, the re-recording of “Pink” only topped out at #41), the slick production and obvious chart-bait turned off many of the long-time fans of the band. As the band regrouped for the 1989 follow-up, Book of Days, these same fans were heartened to learn that former drummer Vince Ely would be making his return behind the kit, setting this album up to be one of those “return to the roots” narratives that fans, not to mention music writers, love so much.

But, even more than the return of Ely, the wisest move the Furs could have made was in their choice of producer in David M. Allen, who had just finished manning the boards for The Cure’s 1989 masterpiece, Disintegration. Allen had worked with The Cure since 1984’s The Top, guiding the band through some of their most seminal and popular recordings of the 1980s. He also worked with other heavy hitters of the era such as The Human League, Depeche Mode, The Chameleons, and The Sisters of Mercy. Even the most cursory listen to Book of Days reveals a change in direction for the Furs, echoing Disintegration‘s emphasis on melancholy and layers of guitars. It was an anti-pop move that may have thrown some of the recent converts, but the album helped point the way to the grunge and alternative rock explosions yet to come.

While the album as a whole doesn’t always quite work, the melancholy borders on overwhelming at times and there is a distinct lack of the type of anthems Richard Butler used to dispatch with ease, “House” towers above the rest as one of the crowning achievements of the band’s later career and a little acknowledged key track in the transition from 80s college rock to 90s alternative rock. The gloomy bombast is present in spades, but it never threatens to overwhelm Butler’s delivery, allowing him to work his wonder on a tale of regret and pain that culminates in a simple, yet powerful chorus refrain of, “shame, will shake this house”. Its a testament to Allen’s talents that he was able to rectify the more dour musical mode with Butler’s earnest delivery. A less careful mix would have resulted in a muddy mess that sold both sides short, but “House” serves as both anthem and contemplation, a mixture that would become increasingly common in the angst-ridden alternative rock era. These kids wanted to scream along in their bedrooms like any other teenager, but they wanted to be able to brood while doing so.

If I’m to be perfectly honest though, the success of “House” isn’t down to either Butler’s vocals or Allen’s production wizardry. Pardon the pun, but this track’s foundation is built from the stellar guitar work of John Ashton. While the band had previously relied on keyboards to color in the margins of their bigger pop hits, Ashton is given free reign here to let his guitar do that work. “House” kicks off with a simple strummed pattern on an acoustic guitar before Ashton launches the track with a rousing, ascending riff that doesn’t sound too far removed from some of the things The Stone Roses were doing. Its a fantastic intro and sets the stage nicely for the rest of the track. But Ashton isn’t content to rest on his laurels after that stirring start, he fills in the gaps and rounds out the corners through the track, affording the drama necessary to give power to the payoff of Butler’s chorus. Sadly, this particular track seems to have gotten lost in the shifting sands of time, as people have preferred to remember the Furs for their eighties heyday, ignoring much of the work that came after. Which is a shame, because as far as I’m concerned, “House” is well worth remembering as a key track in the development of alternative rock, bridging the gap between radio sheen and grunge angst much more ably than a number of its contemporaries.

Rating 9/10

“Roam” – The B-52’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Roam” – The B-52’s
Entry 002
Enters Top Ten: December 30, 1989
Modern Rock Chart Peak: #6
Weeks on Modern Rock Chart: 14

Prior to crashing onto MTV and pop radio in a huge way with their preceding single, the perennial wedding reception favorite “Love Shack”, The B-52’s were longshots to be anyone’s idea of pop stars as the eighties drew to a close. The death of founding guitarist Ricky Wilson in October of 1985, coupled with the disappointing critical and commercial response to 1986′ s Bouncing Off the Satellites, left the band’s legacy in a precarious position. While some would fondly remember them as one of the pillars of the early 1980s Athens, Georgia scene that helped launch R.E.M. into the mainstream consciousness, it seemed that the average American would remember them as little more than a footnote to the American new-wave scene, more memorable for the beehive hairdos and novelty dance hits (“Rock Lobster”) than much of  anything else. Thankfully the band regrouped and blessed dancefloors around the country with Cosmic Thing just as the eighties drew to a close, but before the good vibes subsided completely and the nineties ushered in a dour mood that forced this kind of celebratory pop back into the fringes of the dance charts.

Thanks in particular to its long-standing legacy as a guaranteed crowd-pleaser among all ages, “Love Shack” was a genuine phenomenon that breathed a whole new life into the foursome and helped to rescue their legacy. It is important to note, however, that “Roam” equaled that song’s mainstream chart success, also hitting #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not only did its success ease (unfounded, for the most part) fears that “Love Shack” would be a fluke, but it allowed the band to flex a little range in their songwriting. While “Roam” isn’t quite as jam-packed with hooks as “Shack” was, it still features an undeniable chorus and some really strong vocal performances by both Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson. Musically the song is pretty straightforward, built around a gently propulsive groove that eased the way for extended 12″ remixes and a clean sounding electric guitar melody that betrays the band’s jangle-pop roots from the early eighties. The simple structure is occasionally interrupted by a circular guitar riff that leans a little heavier on distortion, giving just a hint of edge that would help the song slide in on forward-leaning college rock stations and usher in the distorto-pop that Matthew Sweet and Sugar would perfect in the years to come. Toss in an extended vocal outro and a brief guitar solo that accents the jangle and that’s pretty much all there is to it.

In retrospect it isn’t hard to see why the celebratory mood of “Love Shack” is still getting hands in the air while “Roam” seems destined to perpetually soundtrack travel agency commercials and map-crossing montages, but I think “Roam” plays an equally crucial part in defining the band’s legacy. More importantly to our particular story, its appearance underlines the thread of jangle-pop that built the foundations of modern rock and eases our transition into the nineties, where we’ll certainly see increased use of the distorted electric guitar line to highlight an otherwise straightforward pop melody.

Rating: 6/10

“No Myth” – Michael Penn

“No Myth” – Michael Penn
Entry 001
Enters Top Ten: December 30, 1989
Modern Rock Chart Peak: #4
Weeks on Modern Rock Chart: 17

In many ways this particular track makes for a pretty good jumping off point for this whole project, representing as it does that weird transitional period between the end of the 1980s and the start of the decade we are getting set to explore. College rock had already established itself as a “thing”, even if no one really knew exactly what that thing looked like or knew just how drastically it was going to change the landscape of popular music in the coming years. Michael Penn serves as a perfect example of the type of artist that could, and did, thrive in this interesting pocket of popular music where the icons of yesteryear were losing relevancy while programmers frantically scratched their head about what was going to be the “next big thing”.

And while Penn’s name is more likely to come up these days in reference to being Mr. Aimee Mann or as a piece of trivia regarding Sean and Chris’ musical brother, he actually garnered a fair deal of acclaim upon the 1989 release of his debut album, March. Not only did “No Myth” manage to climb all the way up to #13 on the Billboard Hot 100, Penn had enough momentum going throughout 1990 that, in September, he was awarded MTV’s moon man statue for Best New Artist in a Video, beating out better remembered names like The Black Crowes, Bell Biv Devoe, and Lenny Kravitz. The idea that Penn’s career trajectory after this album helped to spark the “Death Award” nickname for this particular category is a subject for another tale or another blog, but the award does go to show that Penn was riding high as our tale begins and his career hinted at bigger and brighter things even if his legacy seems a little more slight in retrospect.

But if we are already to begin speaking in terms of legacies, there are certainly far worse ones to leave than being remembered as the guy who wrote “No Myth”. There will be a lot of artists yet to come on our journey with hits much slighter and far less timeless than these four minutes and nine seconds. Despite the telltale acoustic guitar and drum machine loop pairing that betrays the song’s vintage within seconds, Penn blesses the bargain bin rhythm section with a pleasant melody and a sense of studio playfulness that masks the shortcomings without sounding like that’s what they’re meant to be doing. It took a few relistens for me to remember just how busy this song actually is, between the playful little organ run that comes in after the first line of the chorus, the two (!) guitar solos, and the backwards sounding bits near the end. Even if the sometimes inscrutable lyrics (a soon to be trademark aspect of many of the songs on this journey) about rejection and loss aren’t meant to be smiled at, it takes a hard heart not to be lifted by the buoyant melody or the lilt of Penn’s voice when he requests a private investigator that “can dance like Astaire overseas”.

While “No Myth” doesn’t represent a significant leap away from the mainstream of its day and time, it’s a lovely pop song whose appeal hasn’t faded a bit during the last twenty-two years and the song’s success points towards the new breed of artists who would be making their mark through the Modern Rock charts.

Rating: 8/10